Kenneth Noland - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I know that a work of art has to be about associations that come from some other source than the kind of kinetic perception of a work of art. In other words, how the color, shaping, [and] proportions, quantities cause a kind of energetic reaction.”
    — Kenneth Noland

    Kenneth Noland’s 1974 Pairs illustrates the artist’s quintessential hard-edged abstraction painted against fields of vibrant color. Choosing to omit dimension and figuration from his practice, Noland took cues from the geometric styles and primary color schemes used in the paintings of Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Josef Albers—the latter of whom taught at his alma mater, Black Mountain College. Studying primarily under Ilya Bolotowsky at Black Mountain from 1946 to 1948, the artist became preoccupied with dramatic contrasts between negative and positive space. His studies on the De Stijl art theory as taught by Bolotowsky would continue to resonate with him throughout his career, as he explored the potential of horizonal lines, plaid patterns, and irregularly shaped canvases.


    Featuring color bands that differ in width and density, the so-called Plaid paintings such as Pairs allowed the artist to explore the notion of perspective within his abstract paintings. It is through the varying tonalities, opacities, and overlaps of the different stripes that Noland illustrates a background and a foreground. This process is evident in the present work—purple, blue, green, and yellow bands straddle a seemingly textured orange backdrop rolled onto raw linen, tilted on a single axis. The resulting plaid pattern energetically jumps off the diamond-shaped canvas, giving the painting nuanced form. The rotation of the canvas would become a signature of Noland’s practice, and later inspired his shaped, asymmetrical canvases.

    • Provenance

      André Emmerich Gallery, New York
      Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, New York
      Ethan B. Stroud, Dallas
      Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 2005, lot 228
      Leslie Feely Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Group Exhibition, June 5–28, 1974
      New York, Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery, Born in a Minute: Color Field Painting from the 1950s-1970s, September 20–October 10, 2014, no. 11

    • Literature

      Jane Bell, "Group Show André Emmerich," Arts Magazine, vol. 49, no. 2, October 1974, p. 62 (illustrated)
      Kenworth Moffett, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1977, no. 205, pp. 9, 216 (illustrated, p. 216)



signed, titled and dated "Kenneth Noland 1974 "PAIRS"" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
69 3/8 x 69 3/8 in. (176.2 x 176.2 cm)
Painted in 1974.

Full Cataloguing

$180,000 - 220,000 

Sold for $241,300

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023